This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Sunday Ride Report: I Can Descend!

Sunday was a great day to cycle. Weather was cool (not cold) and sunny but not too bright. Margaret and I had an amazing start because we finally figured a way to fit her bike on my bike rack (her bicycle has an odd-shaped frame). We no longer had to take the wheel off to stick her bike in the truck of my car.

We were delighted to see a 16 women congregate outside Summit Bicycles in preparation for the ride. There were several ride leaders for the 30-mile ride: Amy and Heather were the leaders, Yvonne and Joy for the middle of the pack, and Kathy and Kathy/Cathy swept. Since I wouldn't be sweeping Margaret exclaimed, "Great! We can ride like the wind!" Me: "Uh, okay."

There were a few ladies new to the Sunday Ride. As part of the safety and intro spiel, Kathy reminded us all that there is a Basic Bike Clinic next Sunday at 11AM. In case you are interested, there will still be a Sunday Ride next week, but if you opt to do the ride, you won't get back in time for the clinic. Remember to sign up and bring lunch.

Instead of taking the backroads, our group sped along California Ave., turned at Tilton and continued onto El Cerrito. Unfortunately, at that point, one of the riders got a flat, so Joy stayed back to make sure everything was okay.

Since we had a large group, we stopped briefly at the bottom of Crystal Springs before heading up the hill. Yvonne was the last one to start cycling up the hill but I'm pretty sure she was the first one to get to the top. That gal can crank. I later found out that she rides a Trek 5200 which has a CARBON FRAME. Ooooo! Maybe the lighter frame helps somewhat, but I'm convinced that 95% of the performance is her.

Margaret is also an impressive hill climber despite the fact that she's on a hybrid clunker. I saw her rider further and further away from me and even pass some roadies on clipless pedals! That's pretty cool. I chugged my way uphill slowly and steadily. About three quarters up the hill, I wanted to see if I could spin a little faster by using a lower gear and attempted to shift into my smallest ring in the front. That's when my chain slipped. Doh! Remembering that I could recover by shifting back into a bigger ring, I tried. And failed. Turns out this method doesn't work when you're going up a hill because you lose momentum and have to stop: my legs spun with absolutely no tension and I toppled to one side but landed on my feet.

I contemplated fixing my chain ring manually, but decided to push my bike up the rest of the hill and fix it there so that the other VGs would know what happened to me.

That was a good idea because I had forgotten how to slacken the chain even though it was covered in the Basic Bike Clinic. I knew it could be done easily by depressing a lever, but I mistakenly pushed and prodded the rear derailleur instead. Amy came over to show me the correct gizmo to do the trick. I think it's called the derailleur arm, but just in case I'm calling it the wrong thing look at the diagram near the bottom that has a picture of a rear derailleur and a long red line going through it: The lever you're supposed to swing in an anti-clockwise direction is the long arm that's sticking out of the rear derailleur pointing to seven o'clock.

In case your chain ever falls off, you can put back on by:

  • Loosen chain (give it slack) by depressing the [derailleur arm]
  • Pull chain to hook around a few teeth in the chainring in front
  • Lift rear wheel and turn the pedal with your hand until the chain catches again

Next came the descent. Instead of staying in the bicycle lane, I took the car lane and it worked wonders. I kept on pedaling, feathered my brakes only 2-3 times and sailed downhill. I was in control and was a lot less nervous because I knew that I had lots of space on either side to maneuver in case I had to dodge something suddenly. Margaret clocked us at 25 mph. Woo hoo!

We usually stop at Canada but Margaret & I kept on going when we didn't see VGs congregated anywhere. Since there no cars on Canada, Margaret took this opportunity to practice riding with one hand. I took her lead and did the same. I've been much better at signaling with my hands lately. I can do it most of the time now and yell voice signals loudly when I can't.

At the bakery, we bought some cookies and took our usual break. I spoke for a bit with Alli, who was doing her first ride with clipless pedals on her beautiful Specialized Dolce Sport! Her first ride with VG was last Sunday, and before that she had only done some mtb. She's a triathlete and is going to tackle a Half Ironman this summer. Go Alli!

Exiting the bakery is a challenge because there always seems to be cars coming at you. There were a bunch of us huddled in a group and I had one foot in my toe cage. I needed to stop along with the pack but my caged foot was at the top of the pedal stroke and I didn't have enough time or space to take another stroke to bring it back down to 6 o'clock. So I "jumped" off my bike. That would have been impossible had I been using clipless pedals. What I should have done, since I knew there would be a lot of stop and go-six-inches, is put one foot in the toe cage, take a stroke but then leave it at 6 o'clock to coast and if necessary, push along the ground with my other foot.

On the way back, I cycled a bit with Jill. It was her first ride with VG. She works with the American Heart and Lung Foundation and will be organizing the Bike for Breath ride this summer. There will be four distances ranging from 20 miles to 100K (metric century). Jill will post to the group at some point because some VGs came out to ride last year and even volunteered at some of the aid stations.

By request (OK, mine) we took the pedestrian bridge route back. I tried explaining the method Holly uses to make the ad hoc left turn at the top, and then Margaret zipped off to demonstrate it. The rest of us also made it through safely - it helps that we were a big pack and was much more visible. Margaret and Jill said that they saw a deer on Polhemus.

I got stuck at some lights but fortunately Margaret waited for me so we headed down Polhemus together. As we passed El Cerrito I signaled for her to pull over one side since that road looked familiar. I wasn't sure whether everybody else ahead of us had taken El Cerrito or kept on going on Crystal Springs to follow the Official Directions.

Even though we had taken the El Cerrito route a couple of times, I wasn't quite sure of the way back since we seem to take a slightly different path back each time. I wanted to take the way Holly led us through once that was miraculously pothole-free but couldn't remember it. So we made an executive decision to follow the Official Directions instead since we knew those would definitely lead us back to Summit. Lesson: ride with a turn sheet! It's also wise to buddy up with somebody that cycles at approximately the same speed when you ride.

After we got back to HQ, we saw Jill who had also lost the pack but followed Ruth who knew the way. I thought we would be the last to arrive but we were the first ones there. Turns out Heather sent out a search party (Amy) to look for us. Shortly afterwards, we saw the rest of the pack cruise by. Fortunately, everybody made it back safely so all was well.

See y'all next Sunday!

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